Friday, February 1, 2008

The United States of Japan?

As usual, Jim Jubak describes complex macro- and micro-economic issues with great simplicity and elegance. Here he highlights some of the growing similarities between our recent market woes, and the decade long recession the Japanese finally just recently climbed out from beneath. Frightening stuff.

I dismissed finances and money matters for years as the worry of the bourgeois. I lived hand-to-mouth, I was trying to be an "artist" or some sort of Whitman-esqe or Keroac-ian model of life as art. Money (though Whitman had a bit of it) was evil; "The Man's way of controlling the masses." I wanted no part of it. To fret over finances was shallow, or worse materialistic, and to be materialistic in the scene that I ran in made you a pariah.

Now all that has changed. I've gleaned a lot since then by keeping my big mouth shut and observing our world as it is, not as I wished it could or would be. What I realized was that money can mean different things to different people. Having money doesn't mean that you have to live in a brownstone on Astor Street and wear a monocle. It also doesn't mean that you have to buy all kinds of junk that you don't need and point out at every opportunity that you could buy this or that if you wanted it, or boy, you really had a great year in the market. To me money means time. Time to work less. Time to spend with people I love doing things I enjoy. Time to volunteer, donate, and be genuinely generous. Time to do what I want. Money is no longer an oppressor or an instrument of violence wielded by the rich, but the only true liberator from these lives we lead. The only way we'll be able to quit the race and be truly on our own.

The point:
I say all of this because I feel funny thinking and talking about money as much as I now do. It feels contrary to my wiring, my punk rock roots, the "man as island" lifestyle I'd spent so long cultivating in every gesture and nuance. But the fact is that if you ignore money, it isn't going to leave you alone, like a bully might. It will slowly and quietly undermine you behind your back, until one day you look up and wish it were there for you, but it's not. Then you end up working every day until you die just to keep food in your belly, a roof over your head, and batteries in the pacemaker.

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